Washington DC Scandal became the new queens of the Women's Division with their dominant 2013 National Championships performance. Do they have what it takes to stay on top?
June 23, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 4 comments
When Washington DC Scandal hauled in the final goal of the 2013 Club Championships, it was the culmination of change. The landmark moment was the signature at the end of Scandal serving notice to the women’s game. Along with that statement, the victory heralded that perhaps change is underway: there is more women’s talent in the division and that means more competition.
So…now what? How do you follow up that?
“Being successful is always a process. The process never ends, and in order to stay successful, the process must continue,” said Scandal veteran Samantha McClellan.
Jenny Fey agreed: “The last four years were about seeking a national championship, certainly, but the goal has always been establishing a storied and long-lasting program in the DC area, which is a process that will continue indefinitely.”
Fortunately, Scandal will be afforded a chance to pen the next chapter in being storied, all while still wearing that new-champ smell, in the form of the World Ultimate Club Championships. They could unseat Fury in the States and do it again on the world stage, bringing home more hardware in the process.
The DC women are headed to their first World Championships and are trying to figure out how to manage the infamous “double peak.” The international experience of players like Alicia White, captains Opi Payne & Sandy Jorgensen, and Coach Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere should be very valuable in navigating such a challenge. Usually the team takes a long break in July, but they’ve decided to space out those periods of rest this year to accommodate their schedule.
In order to aide in handling the demands of such a season, Scandal has a few faces joining them specifically for Worlds. Maddy Frey (Ozone) and Raha Mozaffari (AMP) both will be added to the team as they head to Italy and bring highly impactful skillsets: Frey’s offensive downfield talents are truly elite and Mozaffari is a strong defensive handler coming from the Mixed scene. Playmaking returner Fey is also joining the team for Worlds, but not the club series.
Scandal returns most of the squad that earned them their first title in Frisco, Texas, last year. Maddux and Fey join four other players who won’t be back: Kirsten Unfried (Brute Squad), Alisha Kramer, Christie Lawry, and Kath Ratcliff. Two former Scandal players return – Ashley Morgan and Huldah Gronvall – while Laura Pape (Mary Washington), Ellie Graeden (formerly Brute Squad), and Maggie John form their small rookie class.
“Having a completely filled roster is a new challenge for us,” said McClellan of having such a good problem, “and balancing playing time and figuring out the best combination of players for any given point might be more challenging this year with so many fantastic options.”
Such an experienced roster can be expected to be deeper and scarier. Jorgensen was arguably MVP of the women’s division last year and Payne’s explosive play and charisma has made her the face of women’s Ultimate. Anne Mercier is a cream of the crop thrower, Alicia White still can do it all, and the “role players” – Sarah Itoh, Sasha Bugler, Amy Wickner, Kimberly Beach, Alika Johnston, Sam McClellan, and Co. – have the ability to take over portions of a game. Scandal is seasoned, focused, and downright good.
But this is new. The underdog is the top dog now and Scandal will get everyone’s best game at every venue they play in. Expectations are, to say the least, very high.
“Pressure is not necessarily a bad thing for a team that wants to improve,” said Fey. “Receiving more attention as a result of our accomplishments helps us avoid complacency, motivating us to work harder and raise our own expectations for excellency.”
While the losses of Rathcliff, Fey, and Unfried are all notable – all three were major parts of the team’s title run – and there is some adjusting to be done by Scandal, the lack of talent won’t be the issue should this team stumble. Scandal’s collective game intelligence was high last season, as demonstrated by their poachy lane-invading defensive tactics, but the team played a bit of a high wire act. Big lay outs, baited deep throws, and occasional offensive gunslinging were Scandal 2014 characteristics; high wires aren’t known for their stability.
Another loss is Coach Mike LoPresti, who has been with Scandal since the beginning of their ascent in 2010. His influence has been very important in bringing to the team to its current level. It remains to be seen what impact his absence will have.
The first look at what Scandal 2014 has to offer will be the US Open. The team is excited to get to see the US teams that they’ll be competing against in Lecco and get in some run against international competition. Since teams have pushed their calendars up this season in preparation for WUCC, the level of play should be higher than last year.
The focus for Scandal is squarely on a World Championship and a Club Championship repeat. The pieces of the puzzle are there: starpower, exceptional role players, a strong system, good coaching, and a wealth of confidence and experience. If the team manages to woo some of their Worlds additions into the club postseason, they’ll be fortifying their position in the elite ranks of women’s Ultimate. Their opponents are also growing stronger and won’t be intimidated by Scandal, meaning this sure should be highly competitive at the top.
Despite those elements, one thing is abundantly clear: the new queens of Ultimate reside in DC and they won’t be relinquishing the crown without a fight.
Update: After this piece went to press, Allison Maddux opted in for the club series. The piece has been updated to reflect that change.